Opossums

The opossum is one of the longest surviving mammals, having existed for approximately 65 million years.

Physical Attributes

The opossum has 50 teeth - the most teeth of any mammal in North America. These animals are marsupials, which means that they have a pouch for babies. They are the only marsupial in North America. Babies weigh about 3/10 gram when born. Typically 8-10 babies are born at one time and live in mom's pouch for 2-3 months, then travel on her back for another 1-2 months. Very few survive to adulthood; they may live 1-2 years in the wild (10 years in captivity). Opossums have opposable thumbs on their back feet. They have grasping tails (prehensile), but do hang by their tails. Their vocal sounds include clicking, hissing, growling, and even screeching in aggressive situations. They have an acute sense of hearing and smell. An adult opossum can reach 4-15 pounds in weight, and 2-3 feet in length. They are very hardy.

Habitat

Opossums are actually not native to British Columbia. They have migrated across North America from the eastern states (Virginia). They mostly live in farmlands, woodlands, foothills, rural and urban areas. They are arboreal, expert climbers. When building nests, they will carry the leaves in their tails.

Diet

Opossums are omnivorous, can eat almost anything, including snails, beetles, cockroaches, roof rats, mice, over-ripe fruit, moles, earthworms, grasshoppers, eggs, slugs, frogs, carrion.

Habits

Opossums are solitary creatures. They do not hibernate, but may sleep more during winter. They are very clean animals, always grooming. Docile, non-aggressive, non-destructive, and won't harm people or pets. They prefer to avoid conflicts and to be left alone. They are not vicious, however may bite if provoked or frightened.

Opossums do not dig into soil or destroy property. They do not have a terrible scent, and they pose little risk for exposure to disease. These are easy-going, slow, plodding little creatures, are nocturnal and scavengers. They help to maintain a clean and healthy environment - "Natures Little Sanitation Engineers".

They are harmless, and eat pests and carrion. Many opossums are killed yearly by predators: humans (trapped for meat or fur), dogs, cats, owls, foxes, hawks, larger wildlife. Many die from cars (estimated 8 million road kills).

 

Elizabeth's Wildlife Center

Mail only to P.O. Box 15015
Sevenoaks, Abbotsford, B.C.
V2S 8P1

Open daily 9am-5pm
(604) 852-9173
Call for drop-off location